Having a successful bar, or a bustling bar area in your restaurant, means more than serving great cocktails and different local beers. People will often want to enjoy some quick bites, great appetizers, or more thoughtful food pairings to go along with their drink of choice. So what actually is the best food to offer in your restaurants bar menu? Some patrons will want nothing more than fries or some peanuts, while others will want more thoughtful drink and food pairings in an informal setting, here we’ll look at some ways to make the most of your bar menu.
Serving Up The Classics
Standard bar food staples will always work in a bar setting and offer an informal and familiar take on finger foods. You’ve definitely had them before, and because they are so common, it’s important to do them better. Things like:
- Crispy French Fries & Onion Rings
- Chicken Wings w/ different spice options
- Quesedillas, Nachos, Chips & Salsa
- Sliders (Beef, Chicken, Tofu, etc.)
- Artichoke Dip or Beer Cheese + Pretzels
You can’t go wrong when serving up the classics. Give it a kick up with any local staples, like Chili for Cincinnati or Quahogs in New England. This is a great way to start your bar food menu, with at least a few classics that people are familiar with and will always enjoy.
Kicking Things Up A Notch
Classics will always work, but there is also much room for improvement and innovation with a bar menu. Some patrons may not have intentions of eating an entree and that is one of the reasons to offer more eye catching and noteworthy bar food options. Here we’ll look at a way to stand above the classics.
– Chicken Wings with more thought out flavor options. How about soy ginger Sriracha? Ghost pepper and molasses? Chipotle mole? Working with your chef to pair and incorporate more advanced flavor option is a must.
– Crispy Fries Poutine – offering crispy French fries with gravy, bacon, cheese, scallions, or other iterations of poutine is a way to kick up your French fry game.
-Southwest egg rolls served with corn, black beans, rice, plus chicken with avocado lime dipping sauce.
– Charcuterie plate filled with wonderful dried meats, cheeses, olives, and some good crusty bread.
– Crispy Brussel sprouts with maple syrup and bacon glaze
These all qualify as great bar food dishes that can double as appetizers or entrées for those not looking for a formal meal. Looking to get even more extravagant? Do some web searches, look at other competing restaurants menu’s, this way you can be sure to offer different options or if having similar options, can improve upon the recipes. A great bar area needs to have great food that will keep people drinking, eating, and having a great time without the need for being waited on in a traditional sense or formal entrées.
Pairing Food & Alcohol
No longer does beer and French fries fit the bill. Today, with the range of incredible craft beers continuing to grow, more and more it’s important to have thoughtful food pairings to go along with beverages. This is more than just thinking wine and cheese, take a look.
Cocktails – We’ve all seen margaritas served with nachos before, and this is a great start in the right direction. Pairing cocktails with food can be a bit more complicated than simply pairing with wine or beer as the styles and flavors can vary greatly. So, consider working options like a jalapeño tequila cocktail served with Mexican style egg rolls, or a ginger infused bourbon drink with soy glazed fried tofu. Combining these sorts of flavors will work incredibly well, where the flavor of the food and the flavor of the drink marry harmoniously.
Beer – no longer is wine the only alcohol to pair with food. Now beer companies and consumers alike are putting great emphasis on the food pairing to go with the beer they are drinking. So, think of pairing a slider sampler with a beer flight, each beer having it’s own slider. Here you can get quite creative. Or beer cheese served with that beer, or beer battered bratwurst with that same beer.
Wine – the traditional food and alcohol pairing is important. Spicy chicken wings with fruity sangria comes to mind. Or classical French Bordeaux with meat and cheese plate, or Italian friend mac and cheese with a Chianti. Finger food can also be a great pairing with wine so be sure to work with your semollier and chefs in tandem.
Costs and Pricing
So it’s also important to consider the pricing for a bar menu. Depending on the area, style of restaurant, and cost of entrées, bar menu items should usually be less and on the side of appetizer costs. Where people will not feel they are stretching too thin when ordering drinks and food together, because let’s face it, most patrons will have more than one drink and when ordering only from the bar menu will be inclined to order more than one item. Classic bar menu items will have a high profit margin while the more complicated one’s may not, but all should be fair that patrons will not be second guessing themselves after tasting a menu item.
Working with your distributors, bar tenders, and executive chef is the best way to make sure your bar menu is superb and on trend. With great tasting cocktails and food options that work with the flavors of the drinks and food not against one another. Have suggestions ready to go and even list them on a chalkboard or a paper printed drink menu
Lastly, there will be certain staples you’ll notice always sell and are always fan favorites. Those may or may not find a permanent place on your bar menu, but beyond that it’s important to keep things fresh and seasonal. People often want the same thing they’ve already enjoyed, but more and more people are looking to try new things, especially when they are seasonally paired with drinks. So be sure to keep things fluid, not rigid, and flow with the changing of your beer list. Your bar menu should be a high note of your restaurant with only a little bit of solid thought.